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2020, The Year in Review: Observations of a News Junkie

/ / Sass Savvy & Success

I’m not always a news junkie.  I go in fits and starts listening to my NPR, but this year, with the COVID pandemic touching every part of our lives, I seem to be tuned into news and interviews on a daily basis, partly because I’m home even more than usual.

I tell you this carefully as I also know there’s a danger to being a news junkie.  With so much frightening news out there (especially) this year, it’s easy to start believing that the world is doomed, there’s no hope, all’s wrong with the world.

I feel my news intake is varied enough that I’m hearing enough good news stories to maintain some sense of positivity.

News aside, however, I have come to an interesting realization.  When you listen to the radio your intake senses are limited so you really start hearing the words.

I’m appreciating many of the words I’m hearing.

Bonnie Henry instantly comes to mind, then there’s Deena Hinshaw.  Other words in this vein include Theresa Tam, Heather Morrison, Kami Kandola, Jennifer Russell, and Janice Fitzgerald.  Then there’s Eileen de Villa and Vera Etches.  These are just some of the words I’m remembering, not nearly all.  But aren’t they beautiful?

Oh!  here’s some other words that slipped through my ear buds lately:  Shanthi Johnson, Saqib Shahab, Horacio Arruda, Gurpreet Malhotra, Sheli Dattani, Prabhat Jha, and Réka Gustafson. and Wait! there’s more: Niigaan Sinclair, Samir Sinha, and Chan Hon Goh.

There were other words heard that I think I’ve heard numerous times in my life:  Don Tom, Alvin Fiddler, Hayden King, Bob Joseph, Allan Adam and Kyle Charles. That was relaxing.

I must listen to the radio more than I realize because here are yet more words I heard: Nader Sharifi, Melissa Gillespie, Laveena Munshi, Caroline Quach-Thanh, Brian Burke, Supriya Sharma, Shazma Mithani, Yael Moussadji, Priyanka and Remi Ejiwunmi.

Stick with me!  I’m done with all the words.

I do, now, need to turn to some of the issues that made the news headlines in 2020.  In no particular order there was Me Too, COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, the Rights of Indigenous People, LGBTQ+ and numerous others that may or not be of interest to you.

I’ll start with Me Too.  It’s not a new phrase but, unfortunately, one that still must be part of our lexicon.  Too many women are under-valued, under-respected, under-paid, under-appreciated and the list goes on.  You’ll recognize that many of the words I listed above are female – they made the news headlines because they are well-respected leaders in medical fields front-line with COVID-19.  Yes, decision-makers wearing a heavy mantle of responsibility during the first pandemic many of us have ever seen in our lifetime.  They guide us through this scientific, medical world that has taken control over our lives since mid-March 2020.  What you may not get is that many of the words you have to pause to pronounce are also women in that same world.  Yes, all smart, caring, decisive women.  Despite their brilliance… or perhaps because of it, too many are receiving hate mail for their decisions and their leadership.  The bigger heart-wrench for me is that many of them will tell you part of the hate is about their gender.  WTF?

There’s male words in there too – also incredibly bright brains that help us through this maze called 2020. Of the words I struggle to pronounce (embarrassed to admit), many are non-white and, yes, their hate mail also references the colour of their skin.  WTF?

You might remember I gave you some words that, as white, anglo Canadians we probably all recognized?  Those words all belong to Indigenous People in the news this year.  Why were they in the news? A variety of reason: one is an accomplished artist recently brought into the Marvel fold; others are leaders speaking out against injustices to members of their community or speaking out about how they got beat up by police apparently because they were indigenous.  WTF?

Five words up there go together in an unlikely way, so probably only us news-junkies, radio-heads will figure it out.  One’s a drag race winner, one’s a hockey exec and the other is a Provincial Court Chief Judge.  They are all part of the LGBTQ+ family in one way or another.  Huhn?

By now you may be wondering

By now you may be wondering where the hell this article is going (are you still here?).

Well, back to those issues I mentioned…

Women have climbed, through their own skill and brain power and credibility and hard work, to positions of importance in this country.  What else do they/we have to do to prove their/our worth?  If you’re someone who stills believes this is so much hot air, put a plug in it and after you climb back into your hole, stay there.

Many, many people of non-anglo heritage are also brilliant members of the professions.  Want to spout your bullshit rhetoric about white supremacy?  I want to hear you spout it when you’re lying on a gurney, your only hope being intubation, and the one doctor that can do it has a skin colour other than yours and a name you couldn’t pronounce even if your lungs weren’t failing by the second.

Those indigenous words… well, first of all, you didn’t have a clue they were indigenous, so there.  Second of all, at what point in time do we start respecting the people who were here first?  It’s a bit of a joke in some ways, except there is no humour to be found.  We hate those who have come from away to live among us yet our forebears came from away too, and killed, jailed, kidnapped and brain-washed the people they found already here.  But we sit in the middle of the mess thinking our poop don’t stink.

Still curious about the drag race winner, the hockey exec and the judge?  Well, LGBTQ+ rights surface in unexpected places sometimes.  Melissa Gillespie is the Chief Judge and she recently announced a new policy making the court system more gender inclusive and respectful; Brian Burke is a former hockey player, now hockey exec, and I didn’t actually like some of that interview until he spoke out about his determination to eliminate anti-gay attitudes in sport. Priyanka is a Canadian drag queen and winner of “Canada’s Drag Race 2020”.

There were three words I wanted to include in this article but, after hours of searching, I’m not finding one of them.  The other two are Tetiana Psaras. Tetiana is a Ukrainian surgeon and the word I can’t find was a Syrian refugee, a doctor, neither of whom can practice in Canada until they pass a number of exams, all of which cost money.  We welcome them here and then appear to drop them to fend for themselves instead of offering a bit more support so they can join the force of professionals Canada direly needs.

Yes, the posts this week are all a bit of a rant.

But one of the most challenging years of our lives is drawing to a close.  There’s a lot we can’t control right now… so let’s control that which we can.  We can control our thoughts, our behaviours, our mouths, our fists, our weapons.  We can choose what we say, what we do, how we treat our neighbours and what sort of hand we offer the person with absolutely nothing but the clothes on their back.

Think about it.

Do it.

Create the playlist we want to hear in 2021.

Glossary for the above article:

Dr. Bonnie Henry – BC’s Chief Medical Health Officer (MHO)

Dr. Deena Hinshaw – Alberta’s Chief MHO

Dr. Theresa Tam – Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer

Dr. Heather Morrison – PEI Chief MHO

Dr. Kami Kandola – NWT Chief MHO

Dr. Jennifer Russell – NB Chief MHO

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald – Newfoundland and Labrador Chief MHO

Dr. Eileen de Villa – Medical Officer of Health in Toronto

Dr. Vera Etches – Medical Officer of Health in Ottawa

Dr. Shanthi Johnson – the Dean of Public Health at the University of Alberta

Dr. Saqib Shahab – Saskatchewan’s chief MHO

Dr. Horacio Arruda – Quebec’s chief MHO

Gurpreet Malhotra – CEO of Indus, a non-profit community service agency that’s helping people cope during the pandemic

Sheli Dattani – the Director of Practice Development for the Canadian Pharmacist’s Association

Dr Prabhat Jha – Director of the Centre for Global Health Research at St Michael’s Hospital, and Professor of epidemiology, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto

Dr. Réka Gustafson – BC’s Deputy Provincial Health Officer

Niigaan Sinclair – Anishinaabe professor, author, columnist, speaker and activist

Dr. Samir Sinha – director of Geriatrics at Sinai Health System and the University Health Network in Toronto

Chan Hon Goh – Goh Ballet director reimagining The Nutcracker for 2020

Don Tom – Chief of the Tsartlip First Nation and Vice-President of the Union of the BC Indian Chiefs

Alvin Fiddler – Grand Chief for the Nishnawbe Aski Nation in Thunder Bay

Hayden King – Gchi’mnissing Anishinaabe writer and educator, executive director at The Yellowhead Institute, Ryerson University

Bob Joseph – Founder and President of Indigenous Corporate Training Inc

Allan Adam – Chief of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation

Kyle Charles – writer and illustrator from Whitefish Lake First Nation, the first-ever to draw a brand-new Marvel character: Indigenous Voices #1

Dr. Nader Sharifi – the addictions lead at B.C. Mental and Health Substance Use Services

Melissa Gillespie –  BC Provincial Court Chief Judge, recently announced a new policy making the court system more gender inclusive and respectful.  Interestingly Judge Gillespie was in the news last year for approving an Indigenous Court in William’s Lake, BC

Brian Burke – hockey player turned hockey exec, working to eliminate anti-gay attitudes in sport

Priyanka – first winner of “Canada’s Drag Race”

Dr. Laveena Munshi – Critical Care Physician at Sinai Health System, University of Toronto

Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh – pediatric infectious diseases consultant, medical microbiologist and epidemiologist

Dr. Supriya Sharma – chief medical adviser at Health Canada

Dr. Shazma Mithani – ER physician at the Royal Alexandra Hospital and Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton

Dr. Yael Moussadji – medical lead for the physician workforce plan in the Calgary zone, who has been involved with Alberta Health Services’ COVID task force since the start of the pandemic

Remi Ejiwunmi – a midwife with Midwives of Mississauga – a profession left to fend for itself in the midst of the COVID pandemic

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